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OGDEN — In the biggest change to the university's organizational structure in nearly 30 years, Weber State University announced Tuesday that it will be combining five existing programs, centers and offices under a new division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
"At the center of that strategic plan is an equity framework — which we modeled off the Utah System of Higher Education's equity framework — to make sure that we're serving all of our students," said Adrienne Andrews, who has been appointed to serve as the division's first vice president.
"That's meeting a lot of different people where they are and making sure we're doing everything that we can to not only welcome those students to our campus but making sure once they're here, they have every opportunity for success."
Andrews said that the creation of the new division is in "direct alignment" with the goals and focuses of the school's strategic plan, and builds upon the trajectory she and the university have been working toward the past 17 years.
As far as specific goals and initiatives Andrews hopes to advance in her role as vice president, the first priority is making sure that Weber State is being equitable in its efforts and practices.
"That means reviewing policies, protocols and practices and making the necessary changes where we find them," she said.
Additionally, Andrews emphasized working on the university's commitment to becoming an emerging Hispanic-serving institution by increasing the percentage of students who identify as Hispanic or Latinx descent to 15% by 2025.
"Our growing Hispanic/Latinx population is significant and we need to be focused on increasing the enrollment and engagement of these students, as well as all of our students," Andrews added. "Looking at our Black, Indigenous, Asian American and Pacific Islander, our international students and making sure that the program services and resources that we offer allow them to elevate their education so they can be engaged members of our community and really, service the economic engine for northern Utah."
To help accomplish the goal of becoming an Emerging Hispanic Serving Institution, a new position as director of Emerging Hispanic Serving Institution will also be created with the support of Ally Financial and will report to both the new vice president and to the president.
"It means enhancing the work that we're already doing while also looking beyond where we are today and saying, 'What are meaningful ways we can engage our populations?'" Andrews said. "Looking at traditional-age students as well as nontraditional students and figuring out the appropriate pathways to leverage our relationships with the local tech colleges who are amazing partners in this work."
The new division combines the Center for Diversity & Unity, Center for Multicultural Excellence, Diversity and Inclusive programs, LGBT Resource Center and the Office of Diversity – Chief Diversity Officer to provide a central point of leadership for equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. It also advances the university's goal of "Equity, Diversity and Inclusion," outlined in the university's strategic plan, Weber State Amplified.
"Adrienne is a trusted and respected leader on equity, diversity and inclusion issues within the state of Utah," Weber State University President Brad Mortensen said in a statement. "She knows Weber State and our community and can step in from day one to provide leadership and alignment as we work toward the shared goals and vision outlined in our strategic plan. She has the full support of our trustees, the administration and myself and we look forward to working alongside her as we move these efforts forward."
Changing student body
Andrews said there's a need to do things differently at Weber State to account for a changing student demographic.
"The students that we're serving are now different and that means we have to figure out how to meet the needs of the students we have and the students we anticipate coming to our campus and that's about raising the level of excellence for all," she said.
Andrews has served in a variety of roles advancing the issues of diversity at the university for almost two decades, most recently serving as the assistant vice president of diversity, chief diversity officer. In those years, she's been surrounded by conversations among students about issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion.
"They are looking for more support, different kinds of support. They want to see their own reflections in the folks who are here at the university," Andrews said.
To do this, the university will need to increase its efforts in hiring, retention and promotion of faculty and staff of color, as well as other underserved populations including first-generation, LGBTQ and individuals with disabilities.
"We know that our students want that and we are actively committed to developing those opportunities for folks to be here on campus and to be included, to belong and to be part of the Weber State way," Andrews said.
Additionally, she said, students are looking for the creation of identity-related cultural centers, increased programming as well as more scholarships and financial aid opportunities.
"Those are all efforts that we've been working at diligently across the institution but now I think we have a structure in place to help us streamline that process in moving those things forward," Andrews said.
"We know that this transformative effort will result in more educated community members, greater access to learning and opportunity, enhanced partnerships with our tech colleges and improved pipelines for our employment sectors."